The $733 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved by the House on Friday puts curbs on the the Trump administration from waging war on Iran and Yemen, and restricts the use of military funds at the southwestern border.
The New York Times said the defense policy bill, which has traditionally been a bipartisan exercise, was opposed by the House Republicans. The NDAA was passed with a 220-197 vote in the House after 251 lawmakers backed the amendment on war with Iran.
Before the voting got underway, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Eliot Engel said that if the President wants to go to war, he needs to come to Congress first. “The Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the power to declare war,” the Congressman said.
The amended defense bill includes provisions to bring about an end to the U.S. support of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. Reports said lawmakers flexed their oversight muscles, reflecting a growing desire to take back long-ceded authority over matters of war and peace from the executive branch.
Constitutionally, the Congress has the power to authorize a war. However, for decades, Congress has ceded war-making powers to the president. “For 18-years, Democratic and Republican presidents have used the same law that was passed in 2001 after 9/11 to allow President George W. Bush to take action against Al Qaeda and adjacent groups to wage military action across the Middle East,” Vox said. Experts said the Trump administration could use the same Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran.
In June, Senator Marco Rubio said Trump doesn’t need congressional authority to authorize a strike against Iran. Senator John Kennedy said that he doesn’t know whether Trump would “have the time” to secure congressional approval if he wanted to use military force.
The latest amendment follows the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran, with Tehran allegedly attacking oil tanker and briefly stopping a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran also recently shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone. For months, the United States has been trying to cripple Iran’s economy by imposing sanctions and bullying allies to stop purchasing Iranian oil or face sanctions.